If you have read this blog for a while now, you might remember me mentioning the two year course in Buddhist studies that I have been doing. Last week Term 3 for 2005 started up, roughly marking the half way mark of the course. I was sitting in the class last night, as we listened to teachings, asked questions and laughed along with each other, and it struck me just how close I have come to feel towards this group of people.
As the course is done in a modular format, some of the students have come and gone depending on the module, but the majority of the students in my current class have been doing the course for a while now. Some of the students I have gotten to know really well, and some I don't know so well at all, but even if we aren't 'friends' as such I feel a bond with all of them. A sense of community. We are all asking the big questions of ourselves, opening ourselves up to new ideas and ways of seeing, and frequently discussing our 'inner lives' in class.
When people ask me how I am, or how things are going, I get a sense of real interest not just a polite piece of chit-chat. Likewise I have found myself feeling a genuine concern for some of my fellow students, and feeling honest joy when they have had whatever success has come their way.
In Buddhism we talk about 'The Three Jewels' of Buddhism; The Buddha (specifically our own inner buddha nature, or potential for elightenment), The Dharma (the teachings) and The Sangha (the community of 'spriritual friends'; monks, nuns, teachers & fellow students). All are of equal importance.
I guess what I have discovered on an emotional level, is just how true this is and how much having a community of 'spiritual friends' would become important to me.